American Boots on Ground in Somalia

Leon Panetta has been brought in to oversee significant cuts to the U.S. Defense budget. Meanwhile, we're in six wars.

Leon Panetta has been brought in to oversee significant cuts to the U.S. Defense budget. Meanwhile, we’re in six wars.

Atlantic Wire (“American Boots Hit the Ground in Somalia After Drone Attacks“):

Somalia is now the sixth country over which the United States is flying attack drones. Last month, the same Special Operations Command unit currently operating in Yemen carried out an attack on two leaders of the Somali militant group al-Shabab in a June 23 mission. The Washington Post reported the attack on Wednesday, and on Friday, Somalia’s defense minister says that American military forces touched down to collect the bodies of the insurgents. Al-Shabab has carried out attacks on the Somali government, and while the government is calling on more American drone missions, they say they were not aware of the first drone attack. “But we are not complaining about that. Absolutely not. We welcome it,” Defense Minister Mohamoud Haji Faqi told the Associated Press. “We understand the U.S.’s need to quickly act on its intelligence on the ground.”

 

Obviously, the “boots on the ground” bit is somewhat cheeky; some drone attacks followed by an in-and-out recovery mission isn’t exactly Vietnam. Or, hell, Panama. But it’s shocking that we’re in half a dozen kinetic military operations and your average American would be doing well to name three. Something’s not quite democratic about that.

Additionally, as the piece goes on to note, there are some strategic, moral, and philosophical questions about this wide-ranging use of drones, including for missions only tangentially related to America’s national security interests. What’s the desired outcome? Are they doing more harm than good? With killing so divorced from risk, is war too easy?

FILED UNDER: Africa, Military Affairs, Quick Takes, World Politics,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    But it’s shocking that we’re in half a dozen kinetic military operations and your average American would be doing well to name three. Something’s not quite democratic about that.

    That’s not a failure of democracy, that is a failure of the press.

    By the way, I come up with 4, now 5: Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, and now Somalia*. Who am I forgetting? Or are you including troops deployed in the war on drugs? In which case you’d have to add Columbia and probably 1 or 2 others.

    *a tongue in cheek addititon as you noted.

  2. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Pakistan. Easy to miss, since most think of it as an extension of Afghanistan.

  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Pakistan. Easy to miss, since most think of it as an extension of Afghanistan.

    Duhhhh. *head-slap*

  4. michael reynolds says:

    Actually these are closer to being intelligence operations than war. It’s what would have been called wet work many years ago. We’re targeting enemy operatives for elimination. Calling that war really stretches the definition and I don’t think it serves any purpose.

    The alternative to drone strikes inside failed states is Osama-style raids, or actual real war. These seem like a pretty good alternative to those, and I’m not sure really what the beef is.

    Yes, we should have oversight. In fact I’m sure all this is going through the appropriate Congressional committees. Whether that’s enough is a good question. But this I’m sure of: pretending that neutralizing (whether by assassination or arrest) of enemy operatives is “war” is to say that we fought one hell of a lot of wars in the years following WW2.

  5. anjin-san says:

    I am also not sure I see what the problem is here, as long as there is oversight. Since Republicans have failed at painting Obama as a pussy, now it seems he is a warmonger. Hence the misleading “boots on the ground” and “six wars”.

    Obama made it clear during his campaign that he was serious about taking Al-Qaeda/jihadists apart. So what is the problem – that he is actually doing it? If we can deal with small problems in an efficient manner before they become large problems, it seems like something that is worth doing.

    I don’t think that the failure of the American public to stay informed can be laid at anyone’s feet in particular. The average person in this country cares far more about gossip related to reality TV stars than what is happening in Yemen or Somalia. It says something about our society that is not particularly flattering, but there you have it.

  6. michael reynolds says:

    Since Republicans have failed at painting Obama as a pussy, now it seems he is a warmonger.

    Is he still a Muslim?

  7. CDR M says:

    Actually, what is surprising at all is that it is even being talked about. The US has boots on the ground in frequent hot spots all the time. It is preferred that they remain unknown.

  8. Samuel J. Harris says:

    @michael reynolds: Obama is a pussy, warmongering, Muslim sympathizer. You wouldn’t have asked, I guess, if you didn’t suspect already. Democrats will always lead the way on hypocrisy. Bush’s wars were authorized by Congress; Obama ignores the law and Congress thus it is his wars that are illegal. The anti-war movement was nothing but a hypocritical, political hit job. The little pussy would hand over America and Israel to Muslims in a heartbeat. The truth about the pussy is out there.

  9. Obama ran as a see-what-you-want Rorschach Test, so it is hardly surprising that people put him in categories such as Muslim, though I don’t think it fits. People sense he’s not especially Christian, except along one thread, so they figure he must either be a secularist or another religion, with Muslim being the first idea that comes to mind.

    He was always careful to be both a breath mint and a candy mint. A Kwisatz Hadrach who is both black and white, elite and downtrodden, Wall St capitalist and hippie socialist, American and world citizen. So folks like Reynolds can only defend him by rolling their eyes and attempting merely social disapproval of his critics for being so stupid. The effort goes into the put-down, you see, not the substance.

    Like high school all over again.

  10. Gates said that he hoped Panetta was not brought in for his budget (cutting) expertise.

    But Obama didn’t get elected to fight the war on terror and all his ‘actions’ confirm that. The new chief of the counter terror center is a lawyer who investigated gitmo abuse for Obama. What’s next, JAG officers as infantry division commanders?

    The president has said several times that he’s looking for an additional half trillion dollars in defense cuts; the better to beat swords into entitlement shares for his cronies and constituents.

  11. michael reynolds says:

    I see Jay T has brought some people over from Wizbang to game OTB’s new comment system.

    Classy move.

  12. Your Majesty says:

    @Assistant Village Idiot: Should’ve stopped writing after the first paragraph — Reynolds almost never defends Obama, and his insults remind folks of what was patently obvious about Obama in 2008, if people merely had their eyes open. That IS substantive.

  13. Locomotive Breath says:

    This would be the President that goes around bragging “I got Bin Laden”.

  14. Jay Tea says:

    Sorry, michael, wasn’t me. This thread — and the way you and anjin are being treated — came as a complete surprise to me.

    A pleasant one, I’ll admit, and I hope it’ll entice others to join me in calling for the “hide” feature to go away, but I had absolutely nothing to do with it.

    Well, nothing beyond what I’ve said publicly here. Besides, Wizbang’s “frozen” for the day while we upgrade.

    On topic… yup, six “wars” and only limited Congressional oversight. Part of the blame definitely belongs on Congress, but part of it goes on Obama, too. He could have asked for authorization from Congress over Libya, but was content to get it from NATO and the Arab League instead.

    I guess that’s an acceptable substitute…

    And Libya is far more of a “war of choice” than any other conflict we’re currently embroiled in…

    J.

  15. Jay Tea says:

    Oh, and michael? I just “liked’ each of your comments on this thread. Just ‘cuz you were so nice.

    J.

  16. Jay Tea says:

    Also, michael, this got Instalanched by your “cousin,” Glenn Reynolds. So there’s your infusion of conservatives right there…

    J.

  17. michael reynolds says:

    Jay:

    I apologize.

    They looked like your brand of idiot, but they were a related species.

    Michael

  18. An Interested Party says:

    Obama is a pussy, warmongering, Muslim sympathizer. You wouldn’t have asked, I guess, if you didn’t suspect already.

    Actually he probably asked hoping to see what fools would oblige him with ridiculous statements…he should thank you for your prompt response…

    Obama ignores the law and Congress thus it is his wars that are illegal.

    So I assume you have written your Congressman about impeachment?

  19. Dan Rather says:

    It’s terribly unfair that some conservatives have invaded OTB and are actually using the comment rating system!

    How the hell are all the leftist drones that infest this site supposed to hide all of the opposing viewpoints when there are people from outside the hive coming in and voting?

  20. bains says:

    Michael, a number of years ago there was a boisterous fellow who coined the term “moral majority.” While Falwell wasn’t particularly moral, he fell upon an idea that there is a huge swath of America that is, for all intents and purposes, silent. They toil, and silently suffer the burdens laid upon them by Federal, State, County, and City governments, with the selfish intent to make their family’s life better. They don’t have the luxury of frequenting political blogs such as this, but they do, on occasion, lurk. And when they do, and see comments such as yours, intelligent as they may be, the self-loathing underpinnings strike them as… unreasonable.

    An intellectually honest fellow must consider the option that when their comments are disliked, it isn’t the result of some nefarious plan, rather that their comments are just disagreeable to the larger population to begin with. But echo chambers tend to foist the misconception that others just don’t understand your illuminated and faultless point of view.

  21. anjin-san says:

    Jay… The problems that you, bithead & zels are having are the result of OTB regulars who simply think you are a waste of pixels. What we have seen here is the internet equivalent of outside agitators being bussed in to disrupt the normal dynamic of OTB.

  22. An Interested Party says:

    It’s terribly unfair that some conservatives have invaded OTB and are actually using the comment rating system!

    Actually, the person who has complained the most about the new rating system is a conservative…

  23. michael reynolds says:

    What is particularly idiotic about the recent “conservative” commenters is that they don’t even actually understand the issue, or what position I take, or much of anything. I’d respond to the above bizarre comments but they are non-sequiturs, simply not connected to the issue. They might as well have come in and belched or farted.

  24. michael reynolds says:

    As to the comment likes and dislikes, they are intended to be a form of self-policing of abusive or off-topic comments, I believe. They are not an “agree” or “disagree” button. If people can’t manage to deal with that like adults I suspect James will have to drop them and go back to banning people. I think commenters behaving like grown-ups interested in debate would be the preferable outcome.

  25. davod says:

    I wonder how simple it would be for our drone warfare to change from supporting US interests to supporting UN interests (tasks also not in US interests). After all, we are currently disregarding territorial sovereignty.

    Would we even know if it happened?

  26. Oldcrow says:

    Question,
    Name any part of the budget that has been cut other than defense since Obama took office. Hint no cuts anywhere except defense yet our operations keep multiplying, yes I am active duty and I can tell you it is reaching the breaking point out there.

  27. anjin-san says:

    They toil, and silently suffer the burdens laid upon them by Federal, State, County, and City governments,

    What burdens are these, pray tell? Tax rates that are near historic lows? Let’s see, when we have a new roof put on in a few weeks, we have to improve ventilation in the attic to get up to code – our place is 30 years old. It will cost a few hundred extra bucks, and it will probably pay for itself in a few years. A building inspector will make sure the work is not shoddy.

    A slave am I indeed.

    They don’t have the luxury of frequenting political blogs such as this

  28. anjin-san says:

    They don’t have the luxury of frequenting political blogs such as this

    And how exactly are they being denied this “luxury”? Roughly 80% of Americans have internet access. It is not a luxury, it is a utility. The people you are referring to, for the most part, would rather spend their time watching Jersey Shore than blogging on political sites. Their choice.

  29. anjin-san says:

    Name any part of the budget that has been cut other than defense since Obama took office. Hint no cuts anywhere except defense

    Perhaps you could detail these cuts, with citations from credible sources…

  30. bains says:

    What burdens are these, pray tell? Tax rates that are near historic lows? Let’s see, when we have a new roof put on in a few weeks, we have to improve ventilation in the attic to get up to code – our place is 30 years old. It will cost a few hundred extra bucks, and it will probably pay for itself in a few years. A building inspector will make sure the work is not shoddy.

    Our corporate tax rate are the highest of all developed nations.

    Funny that you mention putting on a new roof. I did that several months ago. The roof that I had personally put on 20 years ago succumbed to a nasty hail storm last year. The arid climate I live in does have heavy snow during the winter, when the leaks exposed themselves. Turns out that city regulations have changed, and that 1×8 substrate is no longer acceptable – even though it has withstood all the weather for over 80 years. When I replaced that roof 20 years ago, I was a carpenter working on getting on the other side of the blueprints. It would have taken me hundreds of hours in front of the building department, and several incredibly stupid hours hours walking the roof, to prove that the existing substrate was , in fact, adequate.

    So I had to pay over a thousand dollars in materials and man hours, just to comply with the city’s new regulations. And I am a registered engineer.

  31. Paddy says:

    Penetta is simply enabling Obama policy, that is unilaterally disarming us. Budget cuts and cost cutting are euphemisms for disarmament. Worse, Obama is determined to transfer strategic missile guidance and anti-missile defense systems to enemies like Russia and China who will in turn proliferate it to Iran and Islamists.

    Sadly, Congress seems to be enablers rather than preventing it. By my reckoning, Obama is a traitor.

  32. anjin-san says:

    Our corporate tax rate are the highest of all developed nations.

    perhaps, but we were discussing the silent/moral majority. Do you classify Exxon as somehow being among them?

    When I replaced that roof 20 years ago

    If your roof failed after 20 years, you might want to consider that there are people in the world who know more about putting a roof on than you do. As an engineer, you are probably aware that building codes are often a good thing. Just look at what happens in places with lax or no codes when a disaster hits.

    We can probably all tell a horror story or two about interacting with a government agency. But then I can tell plenty about dealing with corporate entities. Claiming that Americans are wilting under an oppressive government yolk is simply tea party nonsense.

    And you still have not explained how exactly it is that so many Americans are denied the ability to chat it up on a blog due to the government…

  33. Oldcrow says:

    Here you go there are more just Google it so far they all add up to $175 billion.
    Here
    And here

  34. davod says:

    “If your roof failed after 20 years, you might want to consider that there are people in the world who know more about putting a roof on than you do.”

    Your usual snark is to be expected. However, insulting Bains roof construction shows your ignorance of the practical elements of life.

    If you take the time to review the GAF link you will see that the life of their roof tiles ranges from 10 to 40 years. It seems that Bains roof quite possibly failed because the tile had reached the end of its life not because of any fault in Bains roofing ability.

    “The life expectancy of asphalt shingles varies highly with grade selected, from 10 years for 3-tabbed economy grades to 40 years or longer for heavier architectural shingles Genuine slate is a lifetime roofing choice.”

    http://www.roofshingleshelp.com/reviews/gaf-shingles.php

  35. anjin-san says:

    It seems that Bains roof quite possibly failed because the tile had reached the end of its life

    So he bought cheap roofing roofing materials – that’s somehow the government’s fault?

    your ignorance of the practical elements of life

    Actually. I am reasonably good at the practical stuff. I am putting a first rate roof on my house. You get what you pay for.